Hernando schools superintendent Wayne Alexander made the 1,300-mile journey to Brockton, Mass., with hopes of landing the superintendent job there.
He found the controversy that has embroiled his tenure in this county had already arrived.
Alexander faced pointed questions from the Brockton School Board Monday night about his tendency to jump from job to job and the recent unrest in the school district he has led for the last two years.
Alexander is one of three finalists for the superintendent position in the school district about 15 miles south of Boston. Alexander's job history - eight administrative positions since 1990 - "raised a red flag," Brockton School Board member Richard Bath said during the 75-minute interview.
Many of the moves were due to promotions, replied Alexander, who most recently worked as director of human resources and school operations in New London, Conn. A job hunt now after just two years in Hernando is something he didn't anticipate, Alexander said.
"My plan was to spend the rest of my life in Florida and be a superintendent on the west coast of Florida, and then I fell in love, like many of you have fallen in love, and life changes," he told the School Board.
"It is my desire and my need to relocate to New England, and that's why I'm here. It's my desire to settle down, and I thought I had settled down."
Alexander has drawn fire in recent months from two Hernando School Board members who say he has not been up front about his job search. He has said he needs to move to New England because of a visitation dispute over his new wife's stepchildren, who live in Connecticut.
The Brockton board wanted assurances that if Alexander got the job, he would stick around for a while. Alexander replied that he could see himself staying in Massachusetts for 10 or 15 years. He pointed out that his parents live in the state.
Brockton board members didn't specifically mention the recent effort by the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association to oust Alexander for what the union called rash and unnecessary budget cutting measures and for fostering an environment of favoritism.
But one member did ask Alexander generally about controversy in Hernando.
Alexander said the district is "going through a horrific experience financially" and that he has made tough decisions to cut the budget and reassign school administrators. Ruffled feathers come with the territory, he said.
"I think I've been an agent of change," he told the board.
The atmosphere in Hernando changed drastically once it became known he was looking for a new job, Alexander said. He said he suspects that some in Hernando are upset that he's not sticking around to nurture the new programs he helped start here. He cited the career academies and the gifted center at Explorer K8 as some of his accomplishments.
When asked about his core values, Alexander replied: "Personally I value honesty, straightforwardness and openness. Professionally, I value a work ethic.''
Alexander will be back in New England on May 20. He is the one of two finalists for the superintendent post in Westerly, R.I.
Both Brockton and Westerly school officials have said they hope to have their new superintendent in place by this summer.
Alexander had vowed to stay in Hernando County until his contract ends on June 30, 2010. More recently, he has promised to stay until his successor is in place. The School Board last week approved a timetable that could make that happen by February.
Hernando board member Pat Fagan on Monday repeated his call for the district to cut ties with Alexander now. His job search has become a distraction, Fagan said, and he shouldn't be making decisions that could affect the district long after he's gone.
Fellow board member James Yant has echoed those thoughts, but the three other members have voiced support for Alexander.
"It's time," Fagan said. "I guess James and I can't do any more other than hoping the board wakes up to what's happening here."
Tony Marrero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1431.